Are You Traveling Without Insurance? How Retirees Can Stay Safe On Their Next Trip
When envisioning retirement, travel is one of the top activities that come to mind for many. With less or no work, more time, and savings to pull from, many retirees want to travel as much as they can. If you want to take advantage of this, do you have insurance?
Having insurance while traveling is an important yet sometimes overlooked factor. Here’s how to stay safe on your next trip as a retiree.
Travel brings with it many possibilities for the unexpected. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean an accident or emergency might not happen. Of course, no one wants to plan on illness or injury, but anticipating it is wise.
This is especially true for seniors, as age naturally becomes a precursor to being more easily injured or falling ill. Whether it’s your range of mobility or an underlying condition, consider how this may affect you specifically with your travels.
Travel insurance can be beneficial and insulate you against something extreme happening. It’s a great safety cushion, especially if you’ll be traveling frequently in your golden years.
There are a variety of travel insurance benefits available, including:
- Trip cancellation
- Trip delay
- Trip interruption
- Travel health
- Medical evacuation
- Baggage loss, and more.
These options cover the all-too-familiar setbacks of travel which is; things can change suddenly!
When it comes to trip cancellation, this may be more of a situation that arises from your life circumstances, such as illness, injury, or death of the traveler, a close family member or a traveling companion; military deployment or civil unrest; a serious family emergency, unplanned jury duty, natural disaster, severe weather or a strike, your home or destination becomes uninhabitable, or you or a traveling companion lose your job after you purchase your policy.
Trip delays and interruptions may also be due to the same reasons listed above, such as illness or weather. However, remember you’ll want to read what your policy covers before making any personal changes to your trip plans.
Travel health insurance covers your health and emergencies while you’re traveling. This may be part of your current insurance, but if you check and it’s not, you’ll want to shop around for a separate policy.
Medical evacuation insurance comes into play more for those traveling out of the U.S. It covers emergency transportation which, without insurance, can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. It also may cover instances where the infectious disease has affected the travel area, and you must leave.
Last but not least, look into insurance that will cover common travel issues such as lost, delayed, or damaged luggage. More than 684,000 bags were mishandled in the first quarter of 2022, according to data from the Air Travel Consumer Reports published by the Department of Transportation, and nine bags per 1,000 were lost in 2022. Better to be safe than sorry!
If you have Original Medicare and are traveling within the U.S., good news- this Medicare plan will cover you within the states and U.S. territories. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, check to see whether you have coverage solely within the U.S. or abroad.
Many policies do not have international coverage. Some plans may cover out-of-network providers or out of your service area but with higher cost-sharing (copayments, coinsurances).
Coverage for foreign travel with a Medicare Advantage Plan may also come with more rules and restrictions, upfront costs, and the need for strict documentation of what you’ve spent abroad for future reimbursement.
Also, when it comes to the length of travel, be aware that you may be automatically disenrolled should you choose to travel continuously for more than six months. You can find an Advantage plan that covers you for up to 12 months. Read plans carefully if this is something you plan on doing.
With all of these factors in mind, if you have an area where you lack coverage, you may need a Medigap plan to help you "bridge the gap" if you travel internationally often.
Medigap travel benefits are available in 6 of 10 nationally standardized plans. A Medigap policy will vary from plan to plan and state to state.
A variety of letters symbolizes the plans offered. For example, when you shop around, you’ll see things like Plans C, D, and M. Each plan has different benefits, and some have specific requirements or restrictions. For example, all companies must offer at least Medigap Plan A but must also offer either Plan D or Plan G to people new to Medicare on or after January 1, 2020.
A Medigap plan may cover things like copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. It’s unlikely that a Medigap plan will cover things like
- Long-term care (like in a nursing home)
- Vision or dental care
- Hearing aids
- Private-duty nursing, and note that
- You can enroll in a separate Medicare drug plan (Part D) if you want prescription drug coverage. Medigap plans sold after 2005 don’t include prescription drug coverage.
Here is a complete list of Medigap plans and their benefits:
Make a Plan
Insurance aside, you’ll want to plan for health conditions and emergencies.
Research ahead to find where local hospitals and doctor offices are where you're going. If you have a medical condition, consider wearing a bracelet with information about it or keeping a card in your wallet.
Plan to bring your medicine properly labeled and portioned out. Ensure you have enough runway for prescriptions and medications before you go. Don’t count on being able to get your medication where you travel to, as what’s available may vary from place to place, and that’s not a gamble you want to take.
Pack a mini emergency kit with the basics: bandages, triple antibiotic, hydrocortisone, or Benadryl for allergic reactions, etc.
Consider your method of transportation as well. Will you have long flights? Will you be on a tour bus constantly getting on and off? If so, will you need compression socks, a walker, a cane, orthopedic shoes or inserts, etc.? Mentally walk through the various aspects of the trip to see what other extras you may need.
The last thing you want to do when it comes to travel is worry. This should be a time to be carefree and enjoy yourself. Having an insurance plan set in place can allow you to do just that.